For all the warmth and comfort they provide, wood stoves and fireplaces on the whole do tend to lower indoor air quality (IAQ). When wood burns, it becomes water vapor mixed with other gases and particles of varying sizes. It’s the polluting gases and fine particles that can cause respiratory and lung irritations.
The most lethal of them is carbon monoxide (CO), a fast acting gas that replaces oxygen in the bloodstream. When there’s too much, asphyxiation soon follows. It’s worth remembering that wood stoves and fireplaces aren’t the sole source of CO. It comes from anything that burns without complete combustion. Gas stoves, dryers, furnaces, candles, vehicles and campfires all emit CO.
Playing It Safe
When you burn wood, whether you’re using it as a primary heat source or just occasionally, the condition of the equipment makes a difference, as does the wood you burn. To be safer and have good indoor quality, make sure that:
- Your fireplace or wood stove is in good working condition. A chimney sweep or fireplace expert should clean it annually. As you burn wood, creosote deposits itself inside the chimney, narrowing it. Creosote is also highly combustible and can start a chimney fire if its temperature reaches 451 degrees F.
A chimney sweep will clear the creosote and inspect the chimney for rust damage or cracks in the bricks. The cracks could cause carbon monoxide to leak into your home’s air and rust indicates a structural problem.
- The wood you burn is dry. Wet wood produces more water vapor and smoke than dry, and the fires won’t be as hot, which increases the volume of particulates in the air and the amount of creosote that’s deposited in the chimney.
- You don’t burn treated lumber or trash. The chemicals used to treat lumber are hazardous to breathe. When plastics and Styrofoam burn, they emit toxic gases.
It’s important to keep indoor air quality in mind as you enjoy the hearth this winter. To learn more about keeping its quality high this winter, contact Mowery Heating, Cooling and Plumbing, serving Indianapolis homeowners.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Brownsburg, Indiana and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).
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